Safeguarding Your Vital Legal, Medical, and Financial Data

Adult life offers many joyful opportunities and experiences. It also includes many adult responsibilities, along with numerous official documents that detail who you are, what you own, what you owe, and your wishes.

Where do you keep these vital records? What would happen if an emergency struck, such as a household fire, and you needed to evacuate quickly? What if you were hit by a sudden illness that left you unable to manage your usual responsibilities?

When emergencies strike, things move fast. That’s why smart homeowners plan ahead, taking steps to pull together and organize their essential records in a safe place.

Keep all ORIGINAL copies of your most valuable and difficult-to-replace documents in a highly secure location. In your home, a fireproof safe is a good choice. Otherwise, consider renting a safe deposit box at a bank or credit union.

Additionally, make copies and collect them in a paper notebook stored in a fireproof box that’s easy to access on your way out the door. It’s also a great idea to keep a digital copy on a thumb drive, stored in your emergency kit.

This list may help ensure you’ve included everything you need:


Driver’s license, Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport (for each member of the family).

Deeds, Titles, and Registrations

Real estate, automobiles, boats, etc.

Legal Documents

Marriage certificate, divorce or settlement papers, wills, trusts, advance directives, and power of attorney. Additionally, you may want to include pet adoption or registration papers.

Financial Accounts

Details on your current checking, savings, and credit card accounts, including the name of the financial institution and account numbers. Also include information on any investment and retirement accounts, including savings, pension plans, Veterans Administration benefits, etc.

Loans and Utilities

Names and account numbers for your mortgage, auto loans, other debt, and utility bills (cable, internet, electricity, water, etc.)

Insurance Policies

Copies of all policies, including health, homeowners, auto, life, flood, etc. Include the agent’s contact information, coverage addendums, and any appraisal documents.

Household Inventory

A list of all the significant items you own, including receipts. At a minimum, your list should state when an item was purchased, how much you paid, plus photos or videos.

Tax Returns

Copies of your most recent federal and state returns from the past seven years.

Medical Records

Insurance cards and medical records for every member of your family, including pets, with contact information for doctors, dentists, vets, specialists, etc.


A hard copy of login credentials for your personal computer and your most important online accounts (or your password manager).

Key Contacts

Names, addresses, and phone numbers of immediate family members, attorneys, financial advisors, doctors, etc.

Photos and Videos

Copies of your most precious images. Include a picture of you with your pets to help establish ownership, in case you get separated in an emergency.